File image: Twitter/@IAF_MCC
The first batch of the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s Dassault Rafale fighter jets landed at Ambala airbase in Haryana on July 29.
The five Rafales arrived two days after taking off from France. On July 27, five of the twin-engine fighters had left Dassault Aviation’s production facility in Merignac, France.
The aircraft flying in an arrow formation were flanked by two IAF Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs in the Indian airspace.
Also Read: Rafale deal: A saga of political dogfight to celebratory touchdown
Also Read: 36 Rafale fleet will be a game changer for India: Experts
Welcoming India’s first type of foreign-origin fighter jets since the late 1990s, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted: “The Birds have landed safely in Ambala. The touchdown of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the @IAF_MCC.”
In another tweet, Singh said: “I congratulate the IAF on a professionally executed ferry. I am sure that 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, will continue to live up to their motto of "Udayam Ajasram". I am extremely happy that IAF’s combat capability has got a timely boost.”
The defence minister also thanked the French Government, Dassault Aviation and “other French companies for ensuring the timely delivery” of the aircraft and its weapons “despite the severe restrictions posed by COVID pandemic.”
India has ordered 36 of these fighter jets, in a deal embroiled in controversy. About 12 aircraft are supposed to be delivered every year.Also read | First batch of Rafales arrives in India: Here's what it means for the Indian Air Force
Authorities had tightened security and imposed prohibitory orders near the Ambala Air Force Station ahead of the arrival of five jets, banning shooting of videos and photography.
The modern fighter jets were being flown-in by IAF pilots in a 7,000-km journey that comprises two legs. The aircraft were provided air-to-air refuelling by the French Air Force’s tankers during the first leg.
The convoy took a day's halt at the Al Dhafra airbase, which is partly operated by the French Air Force, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Also read: Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather becomes first Indian pilot to fly Rafale
All five aircraft were flown to their new home – Ambala airbase. Resurrected in 2019, the No. 17 Squadron -- or the ‘Golden Arrows’ stationed at Ambala -- will fly these Rafales first. No. 101, the second squadron to be equipped with Rafales, will be stationed at the Hasimara Air Force Station in northern West Bengal.
Amid the ongoing border dispute between India and China, it has become imperative for the IAF to be able to deploy the new Rafales as soon as possible. According to news reports, all of these five aircraft will be operationally deployed within a week.
The procurement also helps IAF move toward its target of having 42 active squadrons.